Archive for February, 2012

First off let me apologize for the delay. I’ve been busy packaging and finalizing my candy stuff to finally get up for sale on Etsy. Find it here at: http://www.etsy.com/shop/KarlsCandyCo

I also did a quick little review of a new album I received in the mail yesterday. Sleigh Bells’ Reign of Terror. Check that out as well while you peruse the blog-o-sphere.

Now, on to the review.

The second film on our journey through the filmography of Wes Anderson leads us to my number two favorite Anderson film yet, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

While still holding very much to the sadness and raw emotions that ooze from The Royal Tenenbaums, (Review up next), The Life Aquatic is a story of adventure, guilt, revenge, regret, loves lost and loves gained and the importance of friends and family.

So pretty much the same formula played out by every Wes Anderson film.

The Life Aquatic tells the tale of a seemingly washed up oceanographic documentarian Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) and his crew aboard the Belefonte. The film starts with Zissou showing his latest documentary at the Loquasto International Film Festival. The film is ill fated as it shows the death of Steve’s best friend and mentor Esteban at the hand of a shark that Steve can only describe as a Jaguar Shark.

This prompts Zissou to announce his next documentary is going to be dedicated to finding the Jaguar Shark and when asked what he plans to do when he does locate it. He replies,

“I’m going to find it and I’m going to destroy it. I don’t know how yet. Possibly with dynamite.”

That night Steve is confronted by one Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson) who claims to be Steve’s son. This comes as quite a shock to Steve but being a well rounded individual, invites Ned to come along on the next journey with himself and his crew.

Steve’s dedication to killing the beast is infectious among his crew and helpful interns who are tagging along in exchange for class credit. Due to monetary issues Steve is issued an accountant (Bud Cort from Harold and Maude) to keep track of the finances while at sea.

Steve’s wife Eleanor (Anjelica Huston) is one of the bigger bankrolls behind the Zissou Society’s productions but a growing rift between Eleanor and Steve makes money a bit of an issue.

Fast-forward a ways and Steve has essentially wiped his hands of all rational thought and means of finishing his hunt for the Jaguar Shark. It’s no longer a journey as much as an obsession that keeps Steve’s mind off his duty as a captain and leader and more on absurd methods and suicidal side missions including stealing from Hennessey’s off shore base and running headfirst into a Pirate run island resort to rescue his accountant and inadvertently Hennessey.

This all ends up wrapping back around like all Wes Anderson films where Steve begins to see the error of his ways. It doesn’t help his psyche that he’s constantly bombarded with questions from reporter Jane (Cate Blanchette) about his methods of shooting documentaries as well as how smart he actually is.

One of the reason this one ranks so high in  my opinion on my favorite films is the playfulness that comes from this film. The characters are genuinely likable. Even the assholes that occasionally pop up, Jeff Goldblum’s Alistair Hennessey, is played with such vigor that you can’t help but love the fact that they’re there. The fish in the underwater scenes are vibrant, colorful and a joy to see flit across the screen.

The second main reason is the music. Again Anderson brought on the stylings of Mark Mothersbaugh to do the original score for Life Aquatic. Aside from Mothersbaugh’s great contribution to the film, most notably his songs; “We Call Them Pirates Out Here,” “Let me Tell You About My Boat,” and “Ping Island,” the other great thing about this soundtrack is the inclusion of Portuguese singer Seu Jorge. Seu plays Pele dos Santos, a member of the crew in charge of writing the music for the documentaries, but he mostly only sings David Bowie songs in Portuguese, which is a great pleasure to listen to. His takes on “Queen Bitch” and “Live on Mars” are among the greatest takes on Bowie songs I have ever heard.

Aside from the official soundtrack to the film there is also an album that you can pick up called The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions Featuring Seu Jorge which is just a collection of his Bowie covers.

There is heartache felt through this film, you can feel the emotions that the characters have for each other. Most notably Willem Dafoe’s Klaus Daimler as he struggles non-stop to show his devotion to Steve and the Belefonte in general.

While this may be a slightly different take on Anderson’s style, it fits so well in his over all character that you want the movie to keep going well after the credits begin rolling.

There is something majestic about Murray’s portrayal of Zissou. No other actor could have made his dedication and despicability  (At times) shine through the way Murray did. If you have not seen The Life Aquatic, you are missing out and should go and get it today.

This is a little new for me. I’ve never done a music review before, but I’m going to go through with it regardless.

My formal education started out in the form of a music education major before I transitioned to Advertising and Public Relations before eventually settling in with my degree in Film Studies. While I am a few years out of practice as a musician, I still believe I can communicate my ideas thoroughly and concisely through written word.

That being said, here is my review of the new Sleigh Bells album titled Reign of Terror (RoT), released by Mom + Pop Records.

I bought this album on Vinyl, because I’ve always enjoyed listening to the sound of the needle as it slides into the virginal groove of a new record. There’s something about that initial pop that sets the mood off right. (Not intentionally meant to be so perversely graphic)

The big factor to buying new albums on vinyl is the fact that, if you are actually paying for your music, it only costs a couple of dollars more, if at all, plus you get a digital download code to get the mp3 version as well. So for nominal extra cost you get your music, digital copy of said music, and in the case of Reign of Terror, an awesome collection of LP sized artwork to frame or do with as you please.

The other reason I bought RoT on vinyl is because I’d already picked up their freshman album Treats as a collector’s edition vinyl, meaning it’s a thicker gauge record plus it’s psychedelically colored which helped guarantee it’s place on the turntable as my friend(s) and I would lay about in the “Lounge” listening to it and other albums for hours on end on countless occasions.

On to the review. This being the Sophomore release after a successful first time run by the noise pop duo based out of Brooklyn, NY, you’d expect some growth out of them musically and stylistically. If you were expecting major change, you’ll be disappointed. If you enjoyed Treats and want more similar music that is just different enough that you can enjoy it as its own album, you’ll be pleasantly surprised…

for the first side of the album at least.

The album kicks off with a live version of “True Shred Guitar” a powerhouse song that continues a strong pulse through the remainder of the first side of the LP. That’s 6 songs that in my humble opinion kind of rock the house. Each of the six show enough growth that tell me that Sleigh Bells are trying to expand their fan base from the Buddy Holly glasses wearing ‘sters that swayed along with “Rill Rill” two years ago when Treats was released. Not to say they’ve abandoned that group. Quite on the contrary, they’ve embraced the fact that they’re first fans are going to be those ‘sters who are going to drive the sales of this new album.

The sloppy guitar riffs of Derek Miller still remain as well as the sometimes indecipherable lyrics sung by Alexis Krauss. But that’s what Sleigh Bells is. The song Crush, third on the release, starts off with almost the same beat as “Crown on the Ground” from Treats, but quickly turns into its own song leaving it’s roots behind as it progresses.

The biggest joy from this album came when I flipped over to side two which concluded the album with five final songs. The first being “Demons”. The tones that rang through my vintage Sansui speakers were incendiary. I was beginning to think that the Sleigh Bells had surpassed Treats and come out with an amazing new album that I would listen all the way through countless times.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The final four songs pale in comparison to the rest of the album. Even as the final notes of “Demons” faded from my ringing ears, I was bombarded with the rhythmically repeating sounds the band used much more effectively on Treats as well as the first seven songs on RoT.

The final songs felt empty, like they’d given up. It took a lot to finish listening to the rest of the album while fighting the urge to flip the record back over to the front side and just forgetting the second side existed.

On a final note, RoT is an incredible release for a Sophomore album chasing the coat-tails of an impossible freshman run that was Treats. I still have hopes that Sleigh Bells will continue to grow and hopefully the next album will be a complete success and not have the drop off at the end like this one does.

I will be listening to the first side of this album for a while though. And over all, if you can get an album and enjoy 7 out of the 11 produced tracks on it, you’ve made a good buy.

TRACKS TO LISTEN TO NOW: True Shred Guitar, Comeback Kid, Demons, End of the Line.

Here’s a couple of their songs and where you may have recognized them before knowing who they are;

Honda Commcercial featuring “Riot Rhythm” off Treats

Video for “Rill Rill” off Treats

Video for “Comeback Kid” from Reign of Terror

And a bonus track. The original song by Funkadelic that Sleigh Bells sampled for “Riot Rhythm”

“What’s his name again?”

“Max Fischer.”

“Sharp Little Guy.”

“He’s one of the worst students we’ve got.”

First up on our look at the films of Wes Anderson is Rushmore (1998) Starring; Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Brian Cox, and Olivia Williams.

Right when the movie starts you know you’re in for a Wes Anderson film. From the slow lilting tunes created by the great Mark Mothersbaugh to the block lettering exposition as we are introduced to Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), a young man attending the prestigious Rushmore academy. Captain, co-founder, or president of over a dozen extracurricular activities available at Rushmore. Many due to his diligence and insistence that they be started.

Within 10 minutes we find Max looking at a book by Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Diving for Sunken Treasure, which was also checked out by first year teacher Ms Cross (Olivia Williams). She quickly becomes the love interest for Max who gives no regard to the fact that he’s half her age. I found it interesting that Anderson would focus so much on the book by Cousteau as well as entering in a hand written quote by Cousteau that Cross had written inside the book when she’d checked it out. I associate this entrance of Cousteau by Anderson as a premonition to the great role Cousteau would play in Anderson’s Life Aquatic. But we can talk about that later this week.

Max soon gains a competitor for Ms Cross’s heart in Mr Herman Blume played by Bill Murray (Yes, I do realize I do a lot of reviews of Bill Murray things, it’s not intentional. He’s just in a lot of good movies!) who is the father of twins who also attend Rushmore Academy. Blume is also a very successful and rich business man who donates a lot of money to building new facilities at Rushmore. Max believes he can use Blume’s wealth to his own advantages by planning on building an aquarium to present as a present to Ms Cross.

There are a lot of interesting relationships that build between our trio, Max’s obsession with Ms Rosemary Cross, Rosemary and Blume’s relationship that eventually ends Blume’s current marriage, and the friendship that develops with Max and Herman. There are few times where you really feel like any of the relationships are wrong, but you know that they just aren’t quite right. Even though Herman is supposed to be an adult he’s constantly acting more like a child than Max does. The two even get into a heated battle of destruction when Blume wrecks Max’s bike, Max cuts Blume’s brake lines in his car. Then, being the president of the bee keeper’s society at Rushmore, uses said bees to infest Blume’s hotel room while he’s dining.

The battles are childish but neither realize who the child really is. Even Rosemary never does the right thing and ends whatever form of relationship she and Max do have. She is a teacher and he is a student. There are lines that should never be crossed, no pun intended.

Max is kicked out of Rushmore due to falling grades and ends up burning a lot of bridges with his classmates on his way out. He is then thrust into the world of public school where he still acts like the same person he was in Rushmore. His magnetic personality and over the top ambition soon surrounds him again with a strong group of followers. He returns to Rushmore to speak with Rosemary again saying he needs help being tutored in order to survive in public school.

Thus the path to reconciliation begins and then we’re thrust back into the drama until the point where Rosemary quits, Herman drops off the Earth, and Max gets horribly depressed. Then as we’ve all come to know and love, Anderson brings about a bittersweet ending with most everyone being happy again and headed down the right path to a brighter future.

“Well Tell that stupid Mick he just made my list of things to do today.” – Max Fischer

As I lay awake last night doing my best to fall asleep without succumbing to vices of sleep aids or drink, i gazed across the shelving that holds a portion of my DVD collection. I’ve been in the process of getting rid of the ones I won’t watch again. The ones that remain must fit a certain set of parameters;

1. Part of a complete collection i.e. Criterion

2. An actual collector’s edition collector’s edition. i.e. The Animal House ‘House’, The Brat Pack binder, Steel Books

3. A film that I have seen a hundred times and will watch a hundred more

4. A film that evokes strong memories and emotions that I don’t want to let go of

5. An out of print DVD

6. The works of directors I hope to follow behind in my professional career i.e. The Coen Brothers, Hayao Miyazaki, Danny Boyle and Wes Anderson

Point 6 struck a chord with me and so for the next week I am going to do a review of each Wes Anderson film in no specific order. If I don’t become side tracked, tonight will start with Rushmore. By the end of this next week i’ll wrap up with doing a pre-review of Anderson’s upcoming Moonrise Kingdom.

Stay tuned, keep reading, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover over the next few days.

 

The following article was written by my good friend Dave who is fed up with the reactions people have to the death of Captain James Tiberius Kirk in the film Star Trek: Generations. Enjoy.

Captain James Tiberius Kirk died saving billions of lives, the Enterprise and her crew, and an entire solar system from destruction. Did he ever meet any of the people he saved? No. Did we, the viewers? No. Was it Kirk’s Enterprise and his crew? No. Did we know this solar system or was it special in any way (other than being in the path of the Ribbon)? No. Does that diminish Kirk’s death in any way? Absolutely not. Again, billions of lives, the beloved Enterprise and an entire solar system were saved.

I do not know about you, but if I could die doing that, I would gladly take it. Now, I am not Kirk and neither are you (unless William Shatner or Chris Pine is reading this) so of course a death like that would be more than we could hope for. But, for Kirk? Surely he must deserve better than having a bridge dropped on him. He is James T. Kirk after all! Take a look at the death of Spock as a comparison. The brave Vulcan saved his ship and her crew, admirable, yes, but Kirk saved billions of lives and then some. While Spock may have received a better death on-screen, Kirk’s would have meant more had the billions of lives he’d saved had the opportunity to learn of his sacrifice. Given a choice of receiving a “better” death and saving just one ship versus dying the way Kirk did while saving an entire solar system from destruction, I submit that Kirk would choose the latter and be glad of it.

Throughout his command of the Enterprise, Kirk risked his life time and time again, often in situations less dignified than his final adventure. Yet he did so without hesitation. He was a man who would not have cared how he died but only that his death meant something. And his death meant something. It meant survival to the crew of Picard’s Enterprise and to the billions of inhabitants of the solar system he saved. Yes, it is true that those billions will never know what Kirk did for them, but does that lessen his sacrifice in any way? Would Kirk care that they would never erect a monument to him on that planet? No, of course not. Kirk, a true hero, did not do it for the accolades; he did it because it was the right thing to do.

But, you might be saying, that Kirk, one of the most beloved science fiction characters of all time, “deserved better than having a bridge fall on him on a nameless planet trying to save another nameless planet from an utterly forgettable villain.” I would ask, first, where is it written that people get the deaths we think they deserve? Must everyone who dies do so in a way that we think sufficient? That does not happen in real life so why should it happen in fiction, too? Second, I repeat again that Kirk died saving billions of people, the Enterprise, and an entire solar system. Is the manner of Kirk’s death more important than what it achieves? Would we, the viewers, have been happier if he died fighting a rogue Klingon/ninja hit-squad over Angel Falls while achieving absolutely nothing but giving us one hell of a battle scene? No, it would have felt like cheat. Kirk would have died for nothing. Instead, Kirk’s manner of death may have been mediocre at best, but we must look at what he achieved by dying and what he would have thought about it.

Captain James T. Kirk died as a man of action and through his actions,  saved billions of lives, the Enterprise and her crew, and an entire solar system. He was glad to know his death achieved so much. we should accept that, while the manner of his death may not have been what he deserved, in the end we could not have asked for anything more from our hero.

Being the third in a trilogy you’d expect this movie to be the best of the series. You’d also expect it to answer all the questions you’ve built up through watching the series. You may also expect this to be the most action packed hard hitting and emotional of the series. With The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, you get almost none of these expectations met. Which is a shame.

The main plot line in Hornet’s Nest is the trial of Lisbeth Salander for the three murders that carry over from the last film.

Through most of the film we’re shown the dire lengths everyone close to Lisbeth is going through to keep her safe and protected as there are countless villians after her, trying to silence what she and Mikael have exposed in the story up to this point.

Mikael gets his lawyer sister Annika to represent Lisbeth in the trial thus keeping himself directly invested in the trial as well as an opportunity to feed and share information with her and Lisbeth. Outside of the trial Mikael is set on dedicating the next issue of Millennium to a story explaining how Lisbeth is being framed for the murders and in turn, exposing the true criminals who we find out are directly related to Zala from The Girl Who Played With Fire.

The detective work in Hornet’s Nest is almost sloppy compared to the other two films, it seems rushed as though we should just expect Mikael to be as good as he comes across even though he’s up against a higher calibre of enemy in this film. That enemy being a faceless, nameless organization that has no trail showing they even exist outside of speculation and conspiracy.

As we find ourselves getting deeper into the mystery and closer to finding out who has been framing Lisbeth, we also get closer to losing our main characters as everyone keeps getting threats either through e-mail up to physical attacks on Erika’s (Mikael’s publisher at Millennium) house via a brick through the window in the middle of the night.

Mikael refuses help, continuing on his downward spiral towards a near suicidal run at clearing Lisbeth’s name going as far as to publish the issue of Millennium without the help of Erika or the rest of his staff for the sake of trying to protect them by acting out on his own.

Throughout the trial Lisbeth is her own expert witness in the story of her own life, having written an autobiography on a secretly obtained cell phone during her stint in a hospital awaiting the trial. The main witness called forward on the behalf of the prosecution is the psychologist who was in charge of Lisbeth when she was a child, admitted for setting her father on fire after dousing him with a box of gasoline (as summized in The Girl Who Played With Fire). He disregards Lisbeth’s autobiography as a figmentation of her own delusions and does his best to play up her instability throughout the trial swaying the judge and jury with his theories and professional testimony.

During the film I found myself being more sickened by a few key characters, wondering what it would take for people to treat others the way they do. While there is resolution, I was left with a longing for a more concrete ending to the story. What happens with Lisbeth and Mikael? What happens with Millennium?

Should there be another movie in this series? I don’t think so. There’s no finished book to continue the series off of and anyone who thinks they could finish Stieg’s image or carry it on in any seriousness is sorely mistaken. The emotions you develop along with watching the characters playing their parts in these films can never be replicated along with the story material in quite the same way Stieg Larsson could write them.

All in all, this is a fantastic series worth watching in it’s entirety. I can safely say I may eventually watch the series again, but I want to read the books first, then see how well the translation pulled off, from the book to the original Swedish films and then to the American version.

This weekend I had the pleasure of watching 50/50 Directed by Jonathan Levine and starring; Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anjelica Huston, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Anna Kendrick.

For being a film about fighting cancer, the real story that comes through is the one of friendship between Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen. For being a supporting actor, Rogen stole this movie completely. The film starts with Adam (Gordon-Levitt) finding out he has a rare form of spinal cancer and his initial responses and reactions leading him to tell his girlfriend Rachael (Howard) and best friend Kyle (Rogen). He then tells his mother, played by Anjelica Huston the bad news. He waits to tell her for a few days after finding out because she already has a full plate caring for her Alzheimer’s stricken husband.

As Adam begins chemotherapy to try to combat the cancer he begins seeing a therapist, Katherine (Kendrick). As his life begins to spiral out of his own control, being more or less abandoned by his girlfriend whenever he sits through his 4-5 hour chemo sessions to his best friend apparently exploiting Adam’s cancer to hook up with random girls, Adam becomes close friends with two fellow cancer patients Mitch and Alan (played by screen veterans Matt Frewer and Philip Baker Hall respectively). Mitch and Alan have a happy outlook on life bitching about the cancer and how it’s come too soon for Adam. Their happy outlook could also be due to their embracing of pot laced macaroons and smoking with Adam and Kyle while taking shots of wheat grass.

As the movie progresses we see Adam rekindle his relationship with his mother, come to terms with the disease and struggling as he does his best to fight it. Katherine doesn’t seem to play a big part of his progress as a therapist but more as a friend as the line between doctor and patient is slightly blurred. Kyle, in his own way, does his best to cheer up Adam by making him get out of the house from time to time, trying to get him laid after Rachael admits to cheating on him and even throws a party to celebrate his life at their workplace.

The film does a good job at showing what happens when you tell people you have cancer. It’s a great look at how people react without really knowing how to help or even give positive encouragement. Gordon-Levitt plays a decent cancer patient but I never really felt any pain that he would have been going through. I’ve seen enough cancer patients during the hard months of chemotherapy and I never felt that drawn into Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal.

Kendrick also fell short of her performances in Camp as well as Up in the Air. She wasn’t successful in her role as a practicing student therapist working on her doctorate. While she played up the awkwardness with fervor, her dedication to her patient as well as the rules of the profession were significantly lackluster.

As I said before, this film was stolen by Rogen’s portrayal of the best friend Kyle. Throughout the film he seems like a selfish ass, but every time Adam needed a friend to stand by him, to help him from point A to point B, Kyle was there. The scene that is portrayed on the movie poster, where Adam is shaving his head to save the embarrassment of it falling out in patches as the chemo takes its toll, Kyle is the one who is there to help, even donating his own electric razor (Which is usually used on his ass) to help his friend.

Seth Rogen’s character made me look into myself, wondering if I could be that good of a friend if one of my friends was diagnosed with the Big C. I’d like to think yes. It also made me grateful for the friends I have around me that I know would be there for me through thick and thin. I even know a few would let me borrow their ass razors to shave my head.

This isn’t a movie about fighting cancer, it’s a movie about finding friendships and developing deeper relationships with those closest to you.